10 must-have free Android apps

Trick out your Android phone with these top picks from Google's Android Market

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PicSay

PicSay Android app
Add text and other effects to an image with PicSay.

This fun little app from Shinycore Software lets you edit and modify photos on your phone. Though technically a "lite" version of the company's PicSay Pro, the feature set is pretty thorough -- the only real drawback is that larger photos will be resized to fit the G1's screen.

You can add speech balloons, any of a range of text styles, and images like hearts and stars to your photos. Or if you're feeling less whimsical, you can modify the picture's contrast, tint, hue and saturation levels; flip and rotate your image; and do other basic editing tasks.

When your masterpiece is complete, you can send the picture via e-mail or MMS, upload it to Picasa, set it as an icon or as wallpaper, or hand it to another app to upload to a blog, send to Twitter and more, depending on what compatible applications you have installed.

Ringdroid

Ringdroid Android app
Create a ringtone with Ringdroid.

This app lets you create free ringtones from your favorite songs. (According to copyright attorney Nilay Patel, it's legal as long as you own the music and you're creating the ringtone for your own personal use.)

Just load a song onto your SD card, select start and end points, and save it as a ringtone, alert or notification. You can even record your own ringtones with Ringdroid.

ShopSavvy

ShopSavvy Android app
Gather product prices and reviews with ShopSavvy.

With Big in Japan's ShopSavvy app on your phone, you'll never get a bum deal again. Enter a product name or barcode (using the keypad or the camera), and ShopSavvy identifies the product, searches the Web and local chain stores for the best prices, and collects reviews of the item.

You can click through to Web sites for more information or to order the item, add items to a wish list, or even set price alerts to be notified whenever the price of an item drops below a certain amount.

Hit the Menu key and a list of related products comes up, which is handy if the reviews of the item you're looking at convince you that another choice would be smarter.

TuneWiki

TuneWiki Android app
TuneWiki shows you song lyrics as the song is playing.

TuneWiki is a replacement for Android's built-in media player, offering a number of nice features. Most notable is the lyric scroll, which pulls lyrics off the Internet and scrolls them along with the song.

Other features include integrated Last.fm and Shoutcast radio streaming, YouTube video search, and community features like popular song lists and "music maps" that let you see where people are listening to the same song you are.

Twidroid

Twidroid Android app
The king of the Twitter apps for Android is Twidroid.

It seems like every platform has a half-dozen Twitter clients these days, but on Android, Twidroid from Ralph Zimmerman and Thomas Marban is the reigning king.

In addition to the usual ability to send tweets, view replies and direct messages, and follow or unfollow people, Twidroid integrates with Android's browser so you can tweet links to pages you find interesting; captures GPS information to tweet your location or to geotag tweeted photos; and offers a selection of URL shortening and photo hosting services.

It's all wrapped up in a clean and stylish interface that's easy and fun to use.

Video Player

Video Player Android app
Video Player does just what the name says.

The creatively named Video Player app from Android Tapp does exactly what it says: It plays videos, a function that Google mysteriously chose to leave out of Android.

Video Player isn't fancy; you can play, pause, move backward and forward through the video, and that's it. It plays only H.264 and MPEG-4 videos, and only from an SD card. But it is the only free video player available for Android right now, and it works well despite the meager feature set.

Conclusion

Google is well known for releasing products with few features and then adding new ones later, apparently at random -- which means we can assume that several of these apps will either be acquired by Google and integrated into future versions of Android, or will be superseded by Google's own updates.

For the immediate future, though, the Android Market is your ticket to a full-featured smartphone that gives you no reason at all to feel ashamed in the company of snarky iPhone-bearing friends and colleagues -- and, in many cases, reason enough to feel a little bit superior yourself (well, let's not push it).

Got your own Android app to recommend? Let us know in the article comments.

Logan Kugler is a frequent Computerworld contributor. His most recent article was 8 quick tips for getting the most from IE8.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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